Edge of Winter is a gripping tale as two brothers tasked to spend a weekend with their estranged father (Joel Kinnaman) becomes a fight for survival when the man that you are supposed to inherently trust becomes the biggest threat your very survival.
We got the unique pleasure to sit down with co-writer/director Rob Connolly about what attracted him to this story and the perils along with the joys of indpendant filmmaking.
Dave Voigt: With Edge of Winter there are themes and beats that we all recognize but ones that also provide us with a bit of an emotional twist to it all. Can you talk a little about the genesis of this story?
Rob Connolly: The original idea came from my producer/co-writer Kyle Mann who lives in Vancouver and is very much an outdoorsy kind of guy but the way that I really connected to this was that I had just spent a ton of time working out in the middle of nowhere Alaska working as well as places like Wyoming just backpacking and fishing while I was waiting tables to fund it all. That being said, when you are out in the middle of nowhere for extended periods of time, your mind does truly start to wonder (laughs) and you ask what could happen in the most extreme of circumstances? And for me when I started to think about that in concert with having to deal with the people that you inherently trust, but seeing that trust just fall apart. I think in this case with Joel’s characters and those familiar themes that you were talking about are exactly that. We have this character who thinks that he is doing well, but he isn’t because he just doesn’t know how to be a father. He’s just not programmed or built that way, but as he pulls at these ideals of what he thinks that it is to be a man or be a father we see that how he can go through the motions of doing what he thinks he’s supposed to be as a father, but miss the actually meaning of what it means to be a parent.
DV: I found myself so engaged with the twist in Joel’s character because it wasn’t just about him snapping it was about him having this total emotional breakdown while in this situation.
RC: Oh absolutely, that was one of the things that we were really blessed to have Joel (Kinnaman) on this project because there just aren’t that many actors who can really pull off that kind of nuanced performance that he does. Someone who is some ways really is somewhat of a monster but we always seen how truly broken his character is at the exact same time and he becomes sympathetic which is such a fine line to walk. For me it was important to diagnose his character early on in the process and truly understand what the heart of his psyche truly was. He’s a guy who has never really been able to establish himself in his life or get any kind of positive momentum going and we as we started talking about it, it became apparent that this guys is showing cracks of borderline personality disorder and how some very standard and innocuous situations could hit him in a very scary way, pushing him over the edge was something we wanted to play with. Situations where normal just wasn’t normal anymore and this guy could easily be pushed to the extremes.
DV: Did you get a lot of time with Joel in order to be able to set up the layers of this character?
RC: Oh yeah, we got to meet several times. He’s obviously a really busy guy but as soon as he read the script he became incredibly devoted to the project and put in a ton of time doing research. We really met as often as we could to go over the specifics of what made this guy tick and really lay out all the nuances of what was happening to this guy, where we see this guy who has no idea how things got as far and as bad as they did. For him it was just one short sighted decision after another, miles away from where he started and that basically this guy in a nut shell and I am so proud of Joel because he really did pour himself into this part.
DV: This is the first time you’ve been in the center chair on a feature film. What was the learning curve for you as you transitioned from a short filmmaker to a feature length one for the first time?
RC: While I have worked on other features before in various capacities, nothing ever really prepares you when you are finally doing YOUR film. No matter what you think you know, no matter how many sets you’ve worked on, projects you’ve pitched etc etc etc…You just don’t know. Especially on this one because, we really were in the middle of nowhere and there are so many moving parts that you can never really anticipate that a blizzard is going to come in and then three days later it’s going to 5 degrees Celsius and all the snow is going to melt. Things like that which you can’t plan for is really what the job is and just being able to overcome and deal with those challenges as they come at you. It’s an endurance game at that point.
DV: Plus it’s an independent film on a truncated shoot; I can imagine that you just have to find the will and the ability to just get stuff done, if only out of necessity.
RC: Totally, it’s funny because The Revenant was shooting pretty close to us at the exact same time but they obvious had the budget to put things on hold or move it to South America when the weather wasn’t cooperating, but for us we had a four week window to get everything done because after that we were losing Joel to Suicide Squad and even if we could have made it work from a budgetary standpoint, it wouldn’t of from a scheduling standpoint, on independent film you just have to make the most of what you got.
Towards the end of our shoot we basically had this situation where we just falling victim to acts of god at that point and we had this blizzard roll in while we were about six hours away from the end of our shoot. We couldn’t hang any lights and it was the middle of the night so we just had to figure out how to make this all work. As challenging as it is, that’s actually the fun of the job for me, those moments where we have to improvise and just figure things out because we simply don’t have any other choice.
Edge of Winter is playing in theatres now and is available on all VOD platforms.